Congratulations to Canadian Cypriot Tyler (Iacovos) Miller , who is leaving to go to Tokyo for the Paralympics. He plays wheelchair basketball for the Canada National team.
Tyler Miller heads to Tokyo having experienced both the highs and lows of the Paralympics.
Back in 2012, the Kitchener native was part of Canada’s wheelchair basketball squad that beat Australia by six points to win the gold medal in London, England.
It was the glory days for the Canucks, who captured three Paralympic gold medals and one silver in a 12-year span ending in London.
“I remember the fans,” said Miller. “We played in the O2 Centre. To have that place rocking and fans screaming and family and friends in the crowd was such an amazing experience.”
Four years later, at the Rio Summer Games, Canada was winless in round-robin action and finished 11th out of a dozen teams.
“It humbled us,” said the 37-year-old Canadian Cypriot. “We could have been a lot better.”
But such is the nature of wheelchair basketball where, Miller says, on any given day eight to 10 teams are capable of knocking off a favourite.
The veteran is hoping for some redemption his third time around at the Paralympics in Tokyo, which run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5. Miller has been practising with the Canadian side for about the past six months and flies to Japan with the team on Friday.
“I think we have podium potential,” he said. “Now it’s on us. We’ve put the time in, we’ve had support and we’ve been lucky to centralize since May.”
Miller severed his spinal cord after a crane holding a steel rack fell on him while working at Conestogo Cold Storage in 2007. He took up wheelchair basketball soon after and played with the Twin City Spinners before joining the national program three years later.
A lot has changed since his Paralympic debut.
Off the court, he has since married girlfriend Eva Papadopoulos and now lives in Waterloo. On the court, the play is way faster and there is more parity among countries.
Miller has also gone from the new kid to one of the team’s leaders.
“Once you’ve been there and won, you don’t carry that same pressure with you everywhere you go,” he said. “I have an idea of what’s involved.”
But this Paralympics will be different due to COVID-19.
Players have had three rapid tests for the virus per week while training and need two negative tests before leaving for Japan. The team has also limited its social circle and players have a variety of apps on their phones to help keep them safe.
And, of course, there won’t be any supporters in the stands.
“We have to temper expectations in that regard,” he said. “We’re not going to have the energy from the fans to lift us up in games. We’re going to have to do it for each other.”